Identify aircraft in the sky

Using an app to track aircraft: Flight radar on the smartphone

Especially in summer when there are few clouds and there is such a clear view of the sky, you can recognize a large number of aircraft not only by the contrails and many will have often asked themselves the question: What kind of plane is that right now, where does it come from, where is it flying to? And yes, there is an app for the smartphone to find out exactly that. The free version already offers a lot of functions, but there is also a subscription version with a lot more functions and information. No smartphone at hand but a computer? There is also a web version, where the movements in the sky can be tracked. If you use the app for the first time, you will see that there is much more going on in the sky than you can imagine.

Identify aircraft in the sky

Real time aircraft tracking

The Flightradar24 app provides all the information about the aircraft in the sky. All of them? Not quite, military aircraft are not required to transmit via ADS-B. Because how does an app like Flightradar work? Commercial aircraft send their information via the mentioned system: "Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast". Thus, it gives the essential information of the aircraft in the air, so to speak. Flightradar has built a network around the world that collects and aggregates the information and makes it available on a map via an app and website. Unfortunately, the service has also often received sad notoriety because, of course, crashing aircraft also send the data and there is thus a publicly accessible archive of flight data of crashed flights. A restriction gives it technically conditionally then: In remote parts of the earth, especially where there is no land mass, there is also no data, because on the ground no station is available, which collects and evaluates these data.

Have you ever used an app to identify an airplane?
Yes, I do it often
50,00 %
No, but I will try it soon
37,50 %
No, I do not care
12,50 %
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Track aircraft live

If relatives or friends are flying to special regions, you can also pick out the aircraft based on the flight number and follow the flight live on the computer. You can always see at what altitude the aircraft is flying, what speed and where the aircraft is currently located. Further information about aircraft type, manufacturer and often even a picture of the observed aircraft is displayed.
But also every aircraft which has aroused the own interest can be followed. It is also always exciting to observe that during major events such as Champions League finals, Formula 1 races or other major events, the air traffic at certain airports in the vicinity increases or several aircraft fly in succession to a certain region on a route.

What you can't track with the apps, however, is your own luggage. However, you can easily track this with another tool: Airtags or Smarttags. We have summarized and clearly presented all relevant and legal information. This way, no piece of luggage will ever get lost again:

When will the plane arrive?

If you pick up friends at the airport after the vacation so the question always arises, when the plane really arrives. Unfortunately, there are often delays and delays, which then makes the private cab wait unnecessarily long. Flightradar24 also provides a lot of useful information here, especially the calculated arrival time at the destination airport. The closer the aircraft is to its destination, the more reliable the data. With this, one can then conveniently depart so as to be at the airport on time when the plane arrives and not wait unnecessarily for delayed planes. If there is WiFi on board the aircraft, relatives can of course also pass on the information to those waiting, although not all aircraft have this technology on board yet.

What are the ways to identify an aircraft in the sky?

Technically, there are several ways to identify the aircraft in the sky:

  • Flight tracking apps: There are many apps and websites that provide real-time information about air traffic worldwide. As mentioned at the beginning, these include Flightradar24, or FlightAware and Plane Finder. These apps show flight routes, flight numbers, aircraft types, and even airlines. You can see the location of the plane, its altitude, speed and direction.
  • ADS-B receiver: ADS-B stands for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast. It is a technology that allows aircraft to broadcast their position and other information wirelessly. You can theoretically buy an ADS-B receiver and receive flight information yourself. This is exactly the signal that the apps I mentioned use with ground stations to display the data.
  • Aircraft silhouettes: For aviation enthusiasts, it is possible to identify aircraft by their shape, size, and other features. There are books and websites that provide detailed silhouettes and information about various aircraft models. Then again, maybe you'd rather do it via app.
  • ATC scanners: Some people use radio scanners to listen to radio traffic between aircraft and the ATC center. However, this may be restricted or illegal depending on local laws. We clearly do not recommend it here either. The communication is between the pilots and air traffic controllers and should only be heard there.


In the modern world today, it is very easy to identify the aircraft that is currently overhead and learn a lot of exciting information about it. Moreover, you can do a lot of useful things with the apps and portals and their data. Otherwise, it is always exciting to look at the air traffic in the extended region and observe how many aircraft are currently in the sky.

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